Classes Changed After Attacks

by Staff

Textbooks are being revised. Lectures are changing. Students arein the midst of unfolding history.

After Sept. 11, many of the political science professors on campusfound they had to change the way they taught their classes.

Take political science professor Carole Kennedy. She said herclasses started dealing with the attacks as soon as students walkedin the door the next morning and continued to follow eventsthroughout the semester.

For example, her American government class addressed ananti-terrorism bill recently signed by President George W. Bush andthe implications of that legislation on civil liberties.

Julie Sullivan, one of Kennedy’s colleagues in the department,agreed — faculty members had to modify their syllabuses toincorporate material related to the attacks.

“There is no way to teach my course without looking at theterrorist attacks,” Sullivan said. “I will continue to focus on thewar on terrorism for as long as it lasts. After that, I will stillrefer to it.

“It is a major political event in American history.”

How professors like Kennedy and Sullivan treated the attacks isthe focus of a new report by the American Council of Trustees andAlumni.

The organization has condemned colleges for what it calls a “blameAmerica first” response to the attacks.

“College and university faculty have been the weak link inAmerica’s response to the attack,” states the report. “Their publicmessages were short on patriotism and long on self-flagellation.”

The report, “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities AreFailing America, and What Can Be Done About It,” states that, unlikeAmerica’s political leaders and the news media, faculty members werereserved about the attacks in their classrooms.

“Some refused to make judgments,” the report continued. “Manyinvoked tolerance and diversity as antidotes to evil. Some evenpointed accusatory fingers, not at the terrorists, but at Americaitself.”

Is there an obligation by a professor to be patriotic and talk upAmerica?

Kennedy said no.

She said she doesn’t set out to convince her students or try toshape their minds. Rather, she engages her students in an analysis ofboth sides by giving them unbiased information and letting them fillin the blanks.

“I do not think we should all be united in the way we think,” shesaid. “That is patently un-American and goes against our most basicfreedoms, which include the right to free speech and the right toassemble and petition the government when we disagree with them.”

Sullivan shared the sentiment.

“Patriotism exists in people’s hearts,” Sullivan said. “It doesnot require that a citizen hand over his or her mind to thegovernment or ‘the tyranny of the majority.’

“A dissenter can still be a patriot.”

Whichever way professors treated the attacks, students noticed.

Computer engineering sophomore Joseph Robinson said that in all ofhis classes on Sept. 12, teachers stopped their classes to talk aboutthe attacks, but after a week, the discussions faded away.

Computer Science sophomore Rhiannon Czigan said she was happy thatprofessors altered their classes to deal with Sept. 11. It is theprofessors’ responsibility to make sense of what is going on in theworld for their students, she said.

Joshua Bernhardt, electrical engineering sophomore, said heenjoyed not hearing about the attacks in class after a while.

“I think it is appropriate, for maybe one or two days after, totalk about what happened, but I don’t think it should be drawn outlike it is right now,” he said. “Like everywhere, there’s stillpeople talking about it and it’s been three months since ithappened.”

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